Imagine that I decide I want to fight in the Golden Gloves. I want to box and I want to compete. So I immediately go to the library and I take out every book I could find about boxing. And I go home and I read them. Now, I’m obviously intelligent enough to realize that I can’t just learn it from a book, so I even practice a little bit. I stand in front of a mirror, I learn how to jab, I learn how to punch, I learn how to duck. And I enroll in my first fight; I sign up for the Golden Gloves. What do you think is going to happen?
I’d like to share with you what’s going to happen is I’m going to get hurt, and likely very badly. Because you can’t learn how to box from a book. To learn how to box you have to get in the ring, you have to learn how to punch, you have to learn how to duck, you have to learn how to take a punch. But you could only learn those skills in combat. You have to be in the ring fighting to learn how to actually box.
And I think that’s a very apt parable for life. Many people think I’ll learn Chovos Halevavos. I’ll learn the laws of bitachon (trust), I’ll learn the concepts, and then I’ll have faith in Hashem. You can’t learn bitachon in the beis midrash (study hall). You can learn the concepts, you can learn the ideas, but it’s in the thick and thin of life that you actually inculcate them within your personality, that you actually learn how to trust in Hashem. But it’s only when you’re in trouble, it’s only when there are difficulties, it’s only when you’re in the real life situations that your bitachon is really tested, and that’s the only way that you really grow in bitachon. Learning these concepts in a shiur (class) in the beis midrash is fine and well, but as you can’t learn to box from a book, you can’t learn bitachon in the beis medrash. You have to go through life situations, you have to be involved in life, only then can you actually learn to really trust in Hashem, to really recognize that Hashem is with me 24/7 all during my life.